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FE news at a glance

FE groups unite to oppose `enormous' funding cut

More than 15,000 people have signed a petition calling on the government to stop the cuts to further education in England. The petition by the University and College Union was launched after it was revealed last month that the adult skills budget will be cut by 11 per cent - 24 per cent excluding money set aside for apprenticeships - in 2015-16. It says the "enormous" cut in funding will decimate FE provision, leave millions of adults without access to education or retraining and put thousands of jobs at risk. The petition is co-sponsored by a range of sector bodies including the Association of Colleges, the 157 Group and the Gazelle Group, as well as the ATL, ASCL, GMB and NUS unions.

Young people fear government inaction on jobs

Youth unemployment is the concern that young people most wish the next government to address, ahead of improving education policies or reviewing tuition fees, according to a new survey. The research by vocational qualifications provider NCFE finds that 48 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds want ministers to focus on employment, compared with 46 per cent on education policies and 40 per cent on tuition fees. However, the survey also finds that just 18 per cent would even consider undertaking an apprenticeship. NCFE chief executive David Grailey said the "huge disconnect" showed that the government needed to do more to help schools inform students of their options.

Big business to recruit thousands more apprentices

More than 23,000 new apprenticeships were pledged by employers as part of National Apprenticeship Week. Pledges have been made by hundreds of businesses around the country - Microsoft Partners, for example, announced plans to recruit 3,500 apprentices. Other firms to sign up include Greene King (2,000 apprentices), the Royal Air Force (1,000) and BT (700). Employers such as BT and the BBC also announced plans to offer more traineeship opportunities. The benefits of employing apprentices were revealed in a report released last week by the Centre for Economics and Business Research. It finds that 5 million consumers prefer to do business with apprentice employers, while the typical apprentice is estimated to deliver productivity gains of more than pound;10,000 per year.

Niace makes case for `lifelong learning society'

An agenda for lifelong learning for the next Parliament has been launched by adult education body Niace. The agenda, which has cross-party support, was rolled out at an event in the House of Lords last week. Its three core priorities are: a new localism that integrates skills with economic growth at a local level with national support; an emphasis on informal learning so people can gain economically and socially useful skills; and making sure every apprenticeship provides an expansive education and foundation for a successful career. Niace chief executive David Hughes said the aim was to create a "lifelong learning society".

Next president of the AoC announced

New College Durham principal John Widdowson will be the next president of the Association of Colleges, the organisation has announced. Mr Widdowson, who began his career in further education in 1988 and has held a variety of college posts across the country, will take over from current president Richard Atkins on 1 August. Mr Widdowson said he wanted to help the AoC to secure a "positive future" for further education. "Whatever government is elected in May, the AoC must reinforce colleges' position as essential to the UK's economic recovery and making education accessible to all regardless of their background," he said.

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